Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Survey shows post-pandemic increase in drinking for some

The Scottish Health Survey 2022 was published today [5 December 2023]. The publication provides information on the health of people in Scotland, including on our alcohol consumption.

According to the survey, the prevalence of people drinking above the Chief Medical Officers' low-risk drinking guidelines has declined steadily from 34% in 2003 to 25% in 2013, reaching the lowest level so far at 22% in 2022.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said, “While it is encouraging to see that how much we are drinking overall has slightly decreased, we are still seeing sustained drinking patterns that put many of us at increased risk of health harms like cancer, stroke and accidents.

“During the pandemic we saw an increase in alcohol consumption among people who were drinking above the low-risk guidelines of 14 units per week. This new data shows that those of us who drink at these higher levels are continuing to drink more than before the pandemic, consuming an average of 32.9 units per week in 2022 compared to 30.9 units per week before the pandemic.

“We are also worried about our young people, who have increased their drinking the most – by a staggering 55% since 2019. Although a relatively high proportion of 16-24 year olds don’t drink at all, young drinkers now drink more than any other age group, averaging 15.5 units per week.

“These figures alongside the shocking 25% increase in alcohol deaths over the last few years demonstrate just why Scotland needs to do all it can to prevent future health problems. As well as increased investment in support and treatment services, the Scottish Government needs to follow through on plans to optimise the minimum unit price, address how heavily alcohol is marketed and restrict how available it is in our communities.”